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Cell phone usage in Italy---I'm a hopeless Luddite

Cell phone usage in Italy---I'm a hopeless Luddite

Jan 6th, 2010, 12:45 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 6,507
Cell phone usage in Italy---I'm a hopeless Luddite

I know this topic is covered regularly, but I can't find answers to my specific questions. And I confess that I am hopeless when it comes to cell phones. But there may be a simple answer to my question--at least I hope so.

We will be in Italy for 2 weeks next June. Our daughters will be with us, so there is no need to "phone home". But we would like to have a phone for quick calls within Italy---to our next lodging, or to make dinner reservations, etc. Could we just use an IPhone?

I recall reading all this information about SIM cards and "unlocked" phones, but I wonder if that applies to IPhones?

If I go on the AT&T website, it seems to say that we can just take the phone in to an AT&T store and get it activated for international use, and then we would pay $1.29 per minute for "international roaming". That sounds reasonable, considering that our total usage will be only a few calls for convenience. In other words, it doesn't seem to make sense to sign up for an "international plan" to reduce the charge per minute to 99 cents.

Am I missing something---is it really this simple?

I do understand that texting is expensive, and we won't let our daughters take their own phones. or use ours for texting.

I also found some information that appears to indicate that where we have wireless internet (which some of our lodgings will have), then we can use the IPhone for internet---for free. Again, am I missing something?

Last question---if we want to make is easy and as inexpensive as possible for one our our daughters to call home to talk to her boyfriend now and then, what is the best option for that? Just use the Iphone and limit her calls to 5 to 10 minutes? (And in this case we should probably sign up for the international calling plan so it's 99 cents instead of $1.29 per minute). Or should we buy her a phone card to use in payphones (can you even find those in Italy anymore)?

Thanks for your help!
enzian is offline  
Jan 6th, 2010, 01:38 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Pay the fee and get the $.99 plan. Tell AT&T that you do not want data. Your iPhone will be able to connect to a wireless signal at any hotel so you can pick up any emails that way instead of through your data plan. For calling the US, I wait until I get to the hotel and use onesuite.com. Sign up for it on line while you are still in the US, which involves a prepay from your credit card. Just do the least amount, you can always add more if you need to. Onesuite will provide a local access code in Italy that you can use for free from your hotel room. I talked for about 20 minutes and I think it was $3!
anneeby is offline  
Jan 6th, 2010, 01:40 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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Can't help you with the IPhone, but one of our Fodorites, Daveesl, posted a neat thread a while ago explaining how to use Skype in Europe. That would let your daughter talk to her boyfriend for free whenever she has access to a computer. The link is: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...on-a-stick.cfm

You may be a Luddite, but I'll bet your daughters are not. They should be able to do this easily.

Hope this helps.

nukesafe is online now  
Jan 6th, 2010, 01:57 PM
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That was fast---thanks to you both.

And nukesafe--you're right, the girls are not Luddites. I'll suggest to her that she get set up with Skype for her phone calls.

One followup question---does the number of our IPhone stay the same (for incoming calls) while we are in Italy? One place we will be staying asked for our mobile phone number. Do I just give them the number as it is now? With a +1 for the country code, so that if they did call us, they would be calling thru the US?
enzian is offline  
Jan 6th, 2010, 02:21 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
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We use our USA AT&T cell phone when we travel to Europe. We call in advance & get on the International plan - 99cents per minute. We use it to check our voice mail & to call in Europe for reservations, etc. I think the dialing is different if using a USA cell phone versus a European land phone.

For me, the hard part is how to dial once in Europe - & we are always in more than 1 country! The hotel staff & locals have no idea of how to dial from your USA cell phone. AT&T gave me some correct & some incorrect info, so I got some advice from Fodorites. I just take my notes with me & dial each option until I get it to work!

Here's what I have compiled:
COUNTRY CODE for Italy is 39; city code for Rome is 06.

1. Booths only accept local phone cards; purchase at post offices, tobacco shops & newsstands; buy for 5, 10, & 20 euros.
2. To call U.S. from Italy land phone, dial 00 (Europe’s int’l access code), 1 (the U.S. country code), 3 digit U.S. area code, 7 digit U.S. telephone number; ex: 00-1-317-888-8888.
3. Must dial 06 (Rome's city code) before all Roman numbers, even if in Rome.

CELL PHONE use in Europe - (www.att.com/global & click on international Long Distance link) **LEAVE the phone TURNED OFF while in Europe or costs begin when the phone begins ringing, for missed calls, & for voice messages; if phone is off, no charge for those calls (unless listen to voice messages).

SONY ERICSSON Z500a, the + key is by holding down the 0 (zero) key. (Fodorites think this is in place of dialing the 011)

HELP from AT&T - (Free call from cell phone; open 24 hrs/7 days week)
1. + 1-916-843-4685, or
2. 001-1-916-843-4685

1. Press & hold the 1 key & it will dial the voicemail.
2. * key to interrupt the personal greeting, if get it.
3. enter your digit password.
NOTE: to reach the main voicemail system greeting, enter your cell phone number with area code, * (to interrupt the personal greeting), enter your digit password.

EUROPE to USA on cell phone -
1. + 1-area code-telephone number, or
2. 001-1-area code-telephone number; saw another note=01-1-area code-telephone number? not sure which it is; try both!

1. 011-country code-city area code-local telephone number, or
2. + country code-city area code-local telephone number
PER FODORITES - 011 is only for calling US; try dropping the 011 by dialing +-country code-area code-phone # (drop the 0 in area code)

NOTE: use the 00 from a land phone; if cell does not have +, dial 011 if calling from North America & 00 from Europe.
JulieAgain is offline  
Jan 6th, 2010, 04:18 PM
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Be sure you also understand the DATA side:

greg is offline  
Jan 6th, 2010, 05:07 PM
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Enzian--I am like you and not the best with cell phones We take our AT&T ones and use the International Plan and so far even I have been able to figure it out, lol. It really is as easy as they say. Just remember to drop the International Plan when you return home.
mms is offline  
Jan 6th, 2010, 09:57 PM
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Good luck. It can be confusing.

In Spain, I used my iTouch wherever there was wireless to email home. Also to check the internet for opening times, directions, etc. It was very convenient.

Skype is a very good idea, if anyone wants to have a long conversation.

I can't help you with the iPhone. My US phone doesn't work internationally, so I purchased an international phone with a European plug and also a UK phone from ORANGE with a UK plug. Wherever I go, I take one of these phones and pick up a SIM card in that particular country. The UK rates for example are very cheap, only 6 pence a minute to call the US and 20 pence for a call within the UK. The phone only cost maybe 20 GBP and I've used it on 4 trips already, topping up as needed. I found this much more convenient and less expensive than buying a new US phone and trying to figure out how to get it to work everywhere.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 10:34 AM
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Posts: 41

In Spain (and other parts of Europe, too, if you know) are most of the wireless hot spots open/free? As in, on the Touch, do you have to enter a code/password? That's a problem I've run into (needing a password) in places here in the States.
darby00 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 11:32 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
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I use my baby dell and skype as my telephone...you can buy minutes if you are calling a land line. I also bought my own number so that if my computer isn't on to "take" calls,I get a voice mail. I love my computer for looking up things while traveling, such as trains, museums...and it can be used to call for reservations...but the downside is, you must be able to be online. I have a very expensive back-up phone for emergencies that I can use everywhere. (3.00/per min).
tenmom is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 12:37 PM
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We currently have AT&T. It is as simple as you think it is. A much cheaper option, which you can utilize with AT&T (and we did this a LOT when I was running around Europe with T-Mobile & teens) is to text message your family at 35 cents (I think) a message. "Meet me in front of the Vatican at 2 p.m." "Where the H-ll did you disappear to? I'm at the bottom of the Spanish Steps!" Oh, yes, the ultimate teenager monitor!
Surfergirl is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 08:21 PM
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Listen to anneeby and just use Onesuite for calling back US.

Rates to call US from Italy is only 9.9c and calling Italy from Italy is 11.5c just in case you want to know.

Here's the rates page - http://www.onesuite.com/rates.asp
Jervin is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 05:14 AM
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I have looked at the Onesuite rates. But I'm curious about using it from a hotel phone (instead of a payphone, which is not a good rate). In the past, we've been charged for a significant charge (many dollars) for using a hotel phone (by the hotel itself), even to access a toll-free number to use a calling card. This was in London and in Denmark, but some years ago (like 10). Maybe this doesn't happen any more, or it's not a problem in Italy? In recent years, we've only used phones in Switzerland, where payphone use is easy and inexpensive.
enzian is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 04:43 AM
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Enzian, like others said, it's pretty straight forward as you think it is. Just to add that, texting is a whole lot cheaper than voice calls, since it's only $0.50 to send and free to receive if you have a txt package (it comes out of your bucket). So, for those situations that you must make a call, just, as long as they are few calls, no point searching for a local prepaid sim, even though they are quite cheap and easy to find.

As for calling, it just +(countrycode) then the number without the leading zero.

So, to call UK number 07961234455, it will be +447961234455. it's best to just store every single number on your phone in this format, so that you can call directly from any country you are in without needing to remember the country's dial out code.
mrcamp is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 05:56 AM
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Let me just add that I have used my AT&T (work) phone in France and Italy and the reception is FABULOUS and easy to use. I do not use this phone in the US, just the BlackBerry email feature, because the reception is so poor and I live in a major metropolitan area but in Europe it has been great.
LouisaH is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 06:25 AM
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bxl4373 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 09:38 AM
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My sister had her cell phone in Ontario, Canada unlocked and bought a SIM card with an Europe phone # and placed it in her cell while there. After calling home everyday for 2 weeks it only cost her $13.00. It's a pay as you go phone# which she tops up every month and lends to friends and family when they go overseas and they reimburse her the charges.
It did cost her $40 to have her phone unlocked, but worth it.
Sominex is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 07:51 PM
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Sounds to me that you are not a true Luddite, but someone who doesn't understand/deal well with technology. From Wikipedia:

The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the early nineteenth century who protested—often by destroying mechanised looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their entire way of life.

You don't really want to destroy your cell phone, I think.
jaja is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 10:42 PM
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darby00 - I am really inept at this, but I'll tell you my observations from a trip in Nov. Regarding finding open wireless in Spain, I did not find it too available, but honestly I didn't look too much, except for using it in one cafe. The hotel had wireless available in the lobby, but they also had a computer there which was easier to jump on. In the airport, I used wireless for several hours, but I believe it was covered by the Boingo subscription I had.

Before I left the US, I signed up for Boingo.com which gave me access to several networks which I used in London and also the Barcelona airport (when the flight was delayed, for 6 hours). It cost $8 per month, I think, and was a terrific deal, especially in London where I used it at the Marriott instead of paying their daily charge of 20 pounds (or whatever it was), one street corner, and a couple of other places. I also stayed at a rental apartment that had a free wireless connection in London. Wireless in general seemed much easier in London than Barcelona. On a previous trip, one of the trains (from London to York I think) offered free wireless on the train, which was really cool.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 12:33 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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I have used onesuite all over Europe and it is by far the easiest and cheapest way to call the US and locally. I ask when I check into a hotel if it is free to call a local non-cell number from my room. In the last several years I only had one hotel that charged. So I went to the nearest pay phone and paid an extra 50 cents per call. If you are going to have a long conversation with someone in the US, like your daughter's friends, it is worth the 50 cents if you have to use a pay phone. But more than likely you will be able to call from your hotel. It is so worth it at less than 10 cents a minute!
anneeby is offline  

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